Let Community Rabbis Decide


The key difference between Rabbi Simcha Krauss and Rabbi Hershel Schachter is that the former has spent his life as a community rabbi while the latter has spent his within the confines of the yeshiva, not having served as spiritual leader of an actual community (“Leading Rabbi Deals Big Blow To Agunot,” Sept. 4).

Historically, responsa to issues that affect individuals have been rendered by community rabbis who by virtue of their interaction with real people developed the empathy needed to rule leniently. The greatest among them had akeen and sensitive ear, and knew how to massage halacha in order to make life bearable for people often on a case-by-case basis.

By contrast, roshei yeshiva are brilliant academic scholars whose métier is the letter of the law rather than its spirit, and who lack the day to day interpersonal relations with real people and real problems. Hence, it is only natural for them to gravitate to the most extreme position on any halachic matter.

The extremism of roshei yeshiva is making Jewish life increasingly onerous for most people – especially agunot. It is time for community rabbis who can reclaim their traditional role, assuming any can be found who are not in the thrall of their roshei yeshiva.